Grout’s silk mill in frontline when second world war bombs dropped
I SEEM to have given reporter Lucy Chapman, an erroneous impression of the air raid on Grout’s factory when I spoke to her last week because the premises were seriously damaged at that time.
As the raid occurred on a Saturday after midday there was no shift working, therefore the actual bombing caused no immediate casualties. However, as Charles G Box says in his book “Great Yarmouth, Front Line Town 1939 -4” in the paragraph on February 1st 1941 “at 12.21pm12 HE [high incendiary] bombs were dropped in a line extending from north to south from Kitchener Road to Middle Market Road.
One bomb dropped on the South Mill at Grout’s factory setting it on fire”.
Mr Box goes on to say: “It was most fortunate that this raid did not occur earlier in the day, a Saturday, in the event of which the casualty list would have been much greater.”
Unfortunately, the boiler man was killed shortly after the raid by falling brickwork after returning to the boiler house.
On page 17 of Mr Box’s book there is a very clear photograph of the burned out mill (copy attached.)
This book was sold for two shillings and sixpence but the publishers were not named. However on the flyleaf it stated “Net proceeds will be handed to the joint Great Yarmouth and Gorleston Hospital Appeal Fund’. Charles G Box OB. being the Chief Constable and Air Raid Precautions Officer during the war.
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I believe the book reached Great Yarmouth in 1948 and Mr Box’s writing style was similar to that of many writers in that period as few personal details of the people were given.
Should similar events happen today there would be hordes of journalists, photographers and even film crews rushing to the spot whereas only official reporting was allowed during the war and even in the Yarmouth Mercury, the attack on Grouts would have been described as an air raid on an East Coast Town as publishing details of targets hit were believed to help the enemy. Indeed if an ordinary person be seen to be taking photographs, he would have probably been arrested as a potential spy.
The events of 1939 -1945 were perhaps the most important in the history of the 20th century. The speeches, thoughts and deeds of politicians and generals are recorded in great detail, but events in the lives of Yarmouth people have not been recorded or written down to any great extent. I respectfully suggest that while people who witnessed great events are still with us efforts should be made to record them.
Perhaps your readers may like to collect the thoughts and memories of eye witnesses among their friends and relations for posterity.